The Phantom of the Opera
The carriage moved steadily along an uneven country road. Christine watched the hills and lands pass, the letter still in her hand.
He is dead. You are safe.
She had never been one for long letters, but this bordered on ridiculous, Christine thought. The newspaper clipping inside explained things more thoroughly.
DEATH OF VISCOUNT DE MARTINEZ
Vincent de Martinez died two days ago, of a fever. The Viscount was said to be suffering ill health for several years, as the result of a severe infection from numerous, unexplained wounds. The Viscount has no living family and will be laid to rest in the family crypt.
Christine smiled to herself. Finally, after eight years, they could go home. She had grown to love the Giry House, but had sorely missed her own home. But now they were safe to return.
All four of them.
She ran a hand over her swollen belly and listened idly to the conversation that Erik and Dominique were having. Well, not so much a conversation as an argument. They were often arguing these days.
"But Papa, if you were to live under the Opera House for so long, you would be ill! People need sunlight," Dominique argued.
"I'll have you know I lived quite comfortably under there. Don't you remember going there?"
"No. I don't think I ever did," Dominique said. Erik looked to his wife and she laughed.
"She was two years old and only there for about five minutes. And you were terribly pale from living there for so long."
"See, Papa?" Dominique said smugly.
Erik sighed and said simply, "Your mother never wanted you to be there in the first place. She was convinced that it wasn't safe." Christine was about to speak but smiled as she felt a movement in her stomach. Dominique fell across her father to press her hands to the fabric of the dress.
"She's kicking!" she said excitedly.
Christine laughed. "It might be a boy."
"No. I want a sister. It will be a girl," Dominique informed her mother.
Erik laughed, "I don't think it's really your choice, Dominique."
"Well, I think it will be."
She settled back into her seat. At eleven years old, she had grown from an adorable toddler to a sweet, but stubborn child. Dark brown hair, as curly as her mothers, fell around a pale face, set with extraordinarily green eyes. She looked at Erik and said, "Are we nearly there?"
"I expect so." He looked out of the window and then said, "Another couple of hours."
Dominique pulled a face. "That's ages!"
"It will pass quickly enough. Do you remember the house at all?"
"A little… not much. I remember the piano," Dominique said thoughtfully.
Rosa, who had been taking care of the house since their departure with the help of Thomas, had kept in contact with them over the years and was eagerly awaiting their return. Christine looked forward to seeing her friends again and turned to Erik, "You do realize that we are going to have to face all the gossip again."
"Well, we are respectable now. We're married," Erik said, kissing her hand.
Christine laughed and said, "I know. But we're going to have to make sure that everyone knows it, especially after that disaster the last time we had dinner with Thomas and Emily."
"Frankly, my darling, I couldn't care less what they think," Erik said cheerfully.
Dominique glanced at her mother, "Is Uncle Thomas coming to meet us?"
"I haven't the faintest idea, Little One. Maybe he, Emily, and the boys will come."
"I don't remember Andrew and Christopher. I remember Emily." Thomas had visited them on several occasions, at the Giry House, so Dominique was well acquainted with him, but had not meet the family for several years.
"They'll be getting quite old now. Let's see… Andrew would be sixteen and Christopher would be nearly twenty, I think," Christine said, thoughtfully.
Dominique grumbled, "They don't sound much fun. Too old."
"You used to adore the boys. You played with them all the time," Christine said.
Dominique said loftily, "Well, I'm rather more grown up now, Mama. I don't know if I want to play with them anymore." Christine tried to look serious but couldn't help smiling at her daughter. Dominique dug around in her bag and pulled out a puzzle box that Erik had made for her. The idea was to find the right combination of pictures to open it up. Inside was a surprise, but neither Christine nor Dominique knew what. Christine rather hoped that whatever it was, it hadn't been expiratory. Dominique had been working on it for several weeks.
Whilst she amused herself with the box, Erik said to Christine, "Do you feel alright?"
"I'm fine. Just a little tired. And large. I can't believe that I still have a month of pregnancy left!" she said, looking down at her bump. Erik smiled and ran his long-fingered hands over her stomach. Christine smiled. "Do you want a boy or a girl?"
"I don't mind. As long as it's healthy and you're alright," he said quietly.
Christine laughed and whispered, "I think I want a boy."
"Mama!" Dominique wailed.
Christine laughed at her and said, "Well, I do! I wanted a girl first, and I got one. Now I want a boy. Charles, after my father, perhaps."
"Charles is a good name," Erik agreed. Dominique glared at her parents.
"You can't call a girl Charles!"
"Well, that's fine. Because I'm going to call this boy Charles!"
Dominique turned irritably back to her box and Christine smiled at her husband. "I must look so terrible. I feel enormous."
"You look beautiful, as always," Erik assured her. Dominique rolled her eyes.
Christine kissed Erik and said quietly, "It's going to be wonderful. We can carry on with our music, run the lands, have a family… it'll be perfect. Everything we ever wanted."
He kissed her again and Dominique cleared her throat. Christine stuck her tongue out at her daughter and kissed Erik again. Dominique sighed and said in a singsong voice, "Kisses lots and lots and lots and…"
"I knew we'd regret telling her that story," Erik mumbled, sitting back.
Dominique smiled sweetly. "Thank you, Papa."
He gave her a disgruntled look and she pulled a face. He rolled his eyes, and then a smirk crossed his lips. "It's going to be a boy."
"No it isn't!"
"Yes it is."
Christine threw up her hands in despair. "You're as bad as each other!" Erik smiled and glanced sideways at his daughter.
"She started it."
"Erik!" Christine snapped and he held his hands up in surrender. Dominique giggled and returned to her puzzle box.
When the three of them climbed out of the carriage outside the front door, Christine looked around and knocked on the door. There was no reply. "Rosa?"
A voice called, "Around the back!"
The family moved around to the rear of the house. When they did so, they were greeted with shouts of joy and greeting. Christine laughed in delight to see the Peron family and rushed forward to greet them. "Thomas!"
"Christine, how was the journey?" he said, hugging her. She kissed his cheek.
"It was fine. Good weather all the way." She greeted Emily and then turned to the two youths standing nearby.
"Look at you both, you're so big! I can't believe it! Christopher, you're a proper adult now." She kissed the older boy's cheek and then Andrew's. "And you, Andrew, I barely recognised you!"
Christine turned and saw Dominique standing by Erik, a slight frown on her face, clutching her father's hand. She smiled at the girl and held out her hand. "Dominique, come and say hello."
Determined not to look shy, Dominique stepped forward. Thomas smiled down at her. "Hello Dominique. How are you?"
"Fine, thank you," Dominique said politely. Emily smiled and kissed her.
"I don't suppose you remember me, do you Dominique?"
"I do, a little," Dominique assured her. Emily smiled.
"How old are you now?"
"Eleven. Nearly twelve," she said, and Emily turned to her sons.
"Come and say hello to Dominique. You do remember her, don't you?"
"I remember a two year old child, not a lovely girl like this," Christopher replied, smiling.
Dominique blushed, but seemed quite pleased. Andrew grinned at her. "Hello Dominique. I'll bet you don't remember us, do you?"
"No," she admitted and Andrew smiled.
"If it helps, I don't really remember you either." The two of them started to talk happily as Christine greeted Rosa, whilst Erik spoke with Thomas.
Rosa smiled, "Hello Christine."
"Rosa, it's so good to see you," Christine said, hugging her friend tightly.
"I've kept everything just as you left it, and Thomas has helped me in running the land. It's all fine," Rosa assured her.
Christine smiled. "I'm just so glad to be home."
They sat on the terrace, where Rosa had tea and food prepared. Erik helped Christine sit and placed a hand on her stomach.
"I'm fine, stop fussing!" she told him laughingly. Emily smiled.
"Let him. It'll stop him worrying."
"I'm pregnant, I'm not made of glass," Christine pointed out. Erik sighed.
"Fine, I'll stop. I just want to make sure that you and the baby both get through this safely."
"We will," Christine assured him. He didn't look particularly convinced.
For several hours they caught up with each other's news and gossip. Christopher, it emerged, was engaged to be married. Rosa herself was courting a man from the village. Emily and Thomas hadn't changed much at all. Andrew and Dominique were hunched over the puzzle box, trying to figure it out.
"It must be so odd to be home after so long," Emily commented. Christine nodded.
"A little. But mostly I'm just glad to be here again. I'm looking forward to just being happy here, with Erik, Dominique, and this one." She patted her stomach.
"Who is not a boy," Dominique put in.
"I want a boy," Christine told her. Dominique looked up irritably.
"Well, I don't! I want a sister!"
"Well, I want a son, so that's hard luck!" Christine told her firmly. Erik smirked and Christine gave him a look. "You were just as bad on the way here. You two were squabbling like infants."
"We were simply having a difference of opinions," Erik said calmly.
Christine started to speak but laughed. "He's kicking again!"
"She's kicking," Dominique corrected her mother, and went to feel it. She smiled and looked at Andrew. "Come and feel. She's kicking very hard."
Christine sat patiently whilst everybody pressed forward to feel the kicking baby. Emily smiled at her.
"Are you nervous?"
"A little. Bit I've still got a month before it's due, and I think I'm better prepared for it this time. I was terrified when I was having Dominique."
"I remember feeling the same way with Christopher." Emily agreed. Dominique had lost interest and had gone inside to look around the house with Andrew and Christopher. Rosa went to fetch more tea, leaving the four others to speak.
Thomas updated them both on the business side of the estate and then enquired about their plans for the future. Christine smiled. "It sounds as if you've been doing a fine job. I will be taking over the business side, once the baby is born."
"And you, Erik? What will you be doing?" Emily asked. Erik smiled slightly and Christine smiled up at him.
"I shall be travelling to Paris as soon as I know that Christine and the child are safe."
"Paris? What on earth for?" Thomas asked. Christine laughed.
"Erik has been busy for the past eight years. He's written an opera and is going to persuade the managers at the Opera Populaire to show it."
"An opera?" Thomas said, in surprise.
"Don Juan Triumphant. He's extremely proud of it." Christine smiled.
Erik lifted an eyebrow. "Eight years of work. Of course I am going to be proud of it."
"And when he returns from Paris, so he can allow the managers to consider his work, he will be bringing Marie and Meg Giry back with him."
"Of course, I will only allow my work to be performed on the condition that Carlotta is not allowed to perform the role of Aminta," Erik said icily. Christine laughed and rested her head on his shoulder.
"Maybe you could find a chorus girl to perform it. Some unknown Prima Donna, just waiting to be discovered," she teased.
Erik smiled and said, "I shall certainly consider it. Anyone but Carlotta."
"Hmm. But please don't drop a screen on anyone, if things don't go your way," she asked
"I wouldn't dream of it," Erik said airily. "More tea?"
The next four weeks passed quickly. Much of it was spent getting the house ready for the baby, while Christine reacquainted herself with the rents, food tallies, and other business things she had forgotten. Erik was rechecking Don Juan Triumphant. Dominique spent a lot of time in the village, making new friends, as well as visiting Emily and Thomas on regular occasions. Although Christine rather suspected this was more because of Andrew, than her godparents. She hadn't mentioned it to Erik, but she had noticed that they were getting on very well.
It was a warm afternoon and the Peron's had come for tea. Dominique and Andrew were wandering around the lawn, talking happily. They were still trying to figure out the puzzle box, and were sure that they were getting close. They sat on the lawn, making guesses and trying out different combinations.
The others were sitting on the terrace, drinking tea and discussing the fast approaching wedding of Christopher.
Suddenly Christine gasped, dropping her teacup. It shattered on the ground and Erik was at his wife's side in a moment. "Christine, what's wrong?"
"Erik… Erik, I think the baby's coming!" Christine gasped. Erik stared at her and then shouted for Rosa.
"Go to the village and get the doctor now!"
He bent down and helped Christine up. "Come on, we should get you to a bed."
"Papa, what's going on?" Dominique said, rushing over.
Erik said, "The baby's coming. The doctor is being fetched."
Thomas got up and helped Erik to take Christine inside whilst Emily hastily picked up the shattered teacup. She turned to Dominique and Andrew.
"Go to the kitchen and put some water on to heat so the doctor can wash."
"Alright," Andrew said, but Dominique hesitated.
"There's nothing you can do, dear. Even your father won't be allowed in the room, there's really no point in waiting around," Emily told her kindly.
She swallowed the lump in her throat and Andrew took her arm. "Come on. We'll put some water on."
Hour after agonisingly slow hour passed. The Peron's, Erik, Rosa, and Dominique waited in the hallway outside as the doctor tended to Christine. After six hours, there was still nothing. Erik passed the hallway anxiously, throwing glances at the clock, pausing outside the door to listen, grinding his teeth and tapping his feet impatiently. Emily and Thomas sat talking quietly with Christopher, while Dominique and Andrew sat on the floor, mostly in silence, occasionally passing a word between them. Dominique had bitten her nails down to the quick and was now chewing her lip. Andrew flicked her nose to make her stop.
"You're bleeding," he said, tapping her lip. She winced and wiped the blood away on her sleeve.
Erik sat on the chair beside Dominique and she leaned her head against his knee.
"Why is taking so long?" she asked quietly.
"It's not an easy task. But I didn't think it would be this long," Erik replied quietly, stroking her hair gently. Rosa got to her feet.
"I'll fetch some drinks and something to eat."
"I'll help you," Emily said, rising.
Erik got to his feet and went to listen at the door again. After hearing nothing he leaned against the wall, rubbing his face, clearly tired. And then he jumped as the door opened and the doctor looked out.
"More hot water. Quickly please, it's almost time." Dominique jumped up and ran to the kitchen. She hurried back, splashing water over herself in her haste. Erik banged on the door. The doctor's head poked out, seized the water and the door slammed shut again. Dominique went to her father's side and put her arms around his waist. He hugged her tightly.
"Are you alright?" he asked her.
"Hmm. I wish I could go in," she said. Erik kissed the top of her head.
"So do I."
A muffled cry sounded through the bedroom door and they both jumped, clinging to each other as they stared at the door. Another scream sounded a moment later and Erik sprang to the door, shouting, "Christine!"
But Thomas darted forward and caught his arm. "No! Let the doctor work!"
"But she's screaming!" Dominique cried.
"You won't be able to do anything, just stay out of the way," Thomas told them both firmly. Erik stared from him to the door and then fell back from it, resuming his pacing, but with more anxiety now. Dominique slumped against the wall and held back a sob as another agonising scream came through the door.
And then there was silence. Everyone stared at the door, waiting, fearful, expectant. Dominique bit her lip again, hardly noticing the pain. Erik was shaking, eyes fixed on the door.
And then came a different sound. Another shrill cry, but not one of agony, of pain. The sound of a child taking its first breath and crying for the very first time.
Unable to stand it for a moment later Dominique and Erik both fell on the door, throwing themselves through. The doctor turned to them as they entered. They both looked at him and he smiled.
"Only a few moments. They need to rest."
Dominique and Erik moved past the doctor to look at the bed. In damp sheets, pale, trembling, beads of sweat running down her face lay Christine. Her eyes were closed and tears were falling down her cheeks. In her arms lay a small bundle.
Erik moved forward and kissed her forehead softly. Christine opened her eyes tiredly and smiled slightly. "Dominique will be disappointed. It's a boy."
Erik fell to his knees beside the bed, clasping one of her hands. "A boy?"
"Yes. This is your son, Erik," Christine said, holding the bundle to him. He took it gingerly and stared down at the tiny child. His face was blotchy and red, his eyes screwed up and his mouth moving gently as he whimpered.
Erik gazed at the baby and then looked at Christine, a wide smile spreading across his face. "My son…"
"Yes. Charles le Phantome," Christine whispered. Erik sank onto the bed beside her, holding the baby gently as Christine rested her head against his shoulder.
Dominique stood a little way off, feeling a little left out. She was unsure of what to do, whether or not she should say anything. To talk now would feel like intruding. But Christine looked across at her and stretched out her arms.
"Little One," she called and Dominique rushed forward to hug her. Christine held her tightly.
"I was so scared," Dominique mumbled.
"Don't be. I know you wanted a sister, but would you like to meet your brother?" Christine asked her. Dominique nodded and sat on Christine's other side. Erik passed Charles across to her and Dominique took him awkwardly, gazing down at the little red boy.
For a moment she didn't say anything or even move. And then Charles unscrewed his eyes and blinked up at her. A delighted smile crossed her face and she touched his cheek gently with the tip of her finger.
"You're my brother," she whispered. Christine and Erik smiled at each other and Dominique whispered to him, "Hello Charles. I'm Dominique. I'm your sister. It's alright that you're not a girl."
Christine laughed softly and the doctor came in.
"Out now, please. Mother and son need some rest." Dominique passed the baby back to Christine and kissed her cheek.
Erik kissed her as well and whispered, "I'll be nearby if you need me."
Outside, the others were waiting anxiously for news. Erik smiled at them. "It's a boy. Charles le Phantome." A rush of congratulations came forward but Dominique stood to one side, smiling to herself. Andrew joined her.
"You're a big sister now."
"Yes, I know." She smiled.
He laughed. "What does it feel like?"
Dominique considered. All the things she could do with her new brother. She could sing to him, teach him to play the piano, play games in the garden, make up stories, teach him to ride a horse, show him the best places to hide in the house, and a thousand other things. She smiled at Andrew. "Good. It feels good."
Andrew grinned at her and then, looking around, whispered conspiratorially, "I think I've figured out the puzzle box."
"What? Really?" Dominique squeaked, excitedly. Andrew nodded and passed it to her. Erik paused to watch her as they moved the pictures on the lid of the box. Suddenly there was loud click and the lid to the box flew open. There was nothing inside, but a strange sound started to come from it. Dominique giggled. "Oh, Papa!"
"What is it?" Emily asked, listening to the peculiar song.
"It's their song! The Phantom of the Opera." Dominique laughed, listening happily to the tune.
Erik laughed and whispered to her, "It will be your job to teach Charles the song. Will you do that?"
"Yes, of course. He's got quite a lot to learn though," Dominique said.
Erik pulled her into a hug. "We'll do it together."
She was bored. Papa was in Paris again, and Mama was busy with the estate business. Charles was napping again. Dominique was sure she hadn't slept that much when she was four years old.
Dominique sighed and moved along the tree branch, wondering if she'd be able to see Papa coming back along the road. He promised he'd be home today. After all it was her birthday tomorrow! And you didn't turn sixteen everyday. Papa had promised, so he'd be here.
She closed her eyes and started to hum idly. Just as she was becoming comfortable she heard her name being called. Mama was standing on the terrace looking around for her. "Dominique, where are you?"
"In the tree," she called back. Mama crossed the lawn and looked up at her. Dominique smiled down. Mama was so beautiful. She wished she looked that lovely. She had the same hair as Mama, and Papa's eyes, but Dominique was sure she wasn't as pretty as her mother. Papa always told her that she was, but he was her father, he was supposed to say things like that.
"Are you going to come down?" Mama asked. Dominique considered.
"Are you sure?"
"Well that's a pity. It's nearly time for tea," Mama said lightly. Dominique shrugged.
"I'm not hungry."
"Oh well. I'll just have to tell Thomas, Emily and Andrew that you're not joining us for tea."
"Andrew's coming?" Dominique gasped, sitting up straight. Christine smiled sweetly.
"Yes, but if you're not hungry I'll just tell him that you didn't want to come."
"No, no, I've changed my mind," Dominique said quickly, starting to climb down the tree.
Christine watched her run inside to change her dirty clothes and smiled to herself. She returned to the terrace, just as Dominique ran past Rosa. The maid laughed at the girl and turned to Christine. "What's going on?"
"I merely informed her that Andrew was joining us for tea."
"Ah," Rosa said, knowingly. Christine laughed.
"They're so innocent together. Erik and I never had a simple relationship like that."
"Well, you were too busy running from evil Viscounts," Rosa pointed out.
"True. I'll help fetch the tea things."
Dominique pulled on a clean dress and quickly brushed her hair. After checking her reflection and scolding herself for her vanity, she moved along the corridor to Charles's room. He was just waking when she entered. Dominique laughed and tickled him until he squealed delightedly.
"Time for tea, Charlie," she told him and he smiled.
"Is Papa back?"
"Not yet. But he will be. He promised," Dominique told her brother, picking him up. He put his arms around her neck, so she carried him on her back, wrapping his legs around her middle. Dominique laughed and started to run down the stairs, Charles screaming happily.
In the entrance hall however, the Peron's had already arrived as Dominique and Charles came rushing, laughing happily. Andrew smiled at Dominique's flushed face and happy smile, Charles grinning over one shoulder. Dominique swung him around to hold him in her arms until he wriggled free and ran to greet Andrew.
"Hello Charlie," Andrew said, ruffling his hair. Charles grinned at him and then went to say hello to Emily and Thomas.
Dominique smiled, almost shyly at Andrew. "Hello Andrew."
"Hello Dominique. Having fun?" he asked, gesturing at Charles. She laughed.
"He's only just woken up from his nap. I… I didn't know you were coming today."
"Mother only told me this morning. I would have come anyway though. It's not everyday that that my favourite girl turns sixteen," Andrew said, scratching his blonde hair, his green eyes laughing.
Dominique smiled and said, "Not 'til tomorrow."
"I know, but it's still special," Andrew argued.
Christine cleared her throat. "Let's go out into the garden, shall we? It's a gorgeous day." They made their way through the house to the garden. The sun beat down on them as they sat around the table. Dominique sat beside Andrew, her eyes fixed downwards, back stiff and awkward. Christine and Emily exchanged an amused glance.
The conversation turned to Erik and his imminent arrival. "He says he trusts Marie and Monsieur Reyer to take care of things, but in truth he won't allow anyone to organize these things except himself," Christine commented. "And he's bringing Meg and Marie back with him for a visit."
"If he doesn't come home I'll never talk to him again," Dominique said firmly.
Christine laughed, "Oh, Little One, of course he'll be home."
That nickname rather annoyed Dominique. She wasn't a child anymore, but her mother still called her by it. She didn't comment though, picking at the biscuit in her hands. Charles had crawled under the table with the kitchen cat and was feeding her pieces of cake. Dominique looked under the table to stop him and Charles pushed a piece of cake into her mouth. She straightened, coughing and spluttering. Everyone started to laugh at her and she pulled a face, wiping the crumbs away.
It was an hour later when a voice called through the house. Dominique and Charles both jumped in joy, running into the entrance hall and throwing themselves into their father's arms. He smiled down at them, lifting Charles and looking at him.
"Have you been good?"
"I knew you would be." He put him down and turned to Dominique, kissing her cheek. "And as for you, young lady, I've got a present for you." Dominique laughed and Erik smiled. "But first I'm going to sit down. It was a long journey." Christine stepped forward kissed him. He held her tightly and Dominique smiled to herself. What was it like, she wondered, to live your whole life still loving someone so much as her parents loved each other?
After they had greeted Meg and Marie, and were all seated back in the garden, Erik reached into his bag and turned to Dominique. "Happy Birthday, Dominique." He passed her a box, wrapped in pretty paper.
Dominique smiled and Christine said pointedly, "It's not your birthday yet."
"Please?" Dominique said, widening her eyes innocently.
Christine laughed and looked at Erik. "You spoil her."
"She deserves to be spoiled," Erik said airily. Christine rolled her eyes. Erik dipped into the bag again and handed Christine a box. "And so do you." Christine laughed.
"You're not going to win me over that easily!"
"We'll see," Erik said confidently.
Dominique swiftly unwrapped the box. Inside lay a leather-bound book. Dominique opened it and stared at the blank pages of sheet music. Erik smiled. "Look at the cover." She closed it again and saw, in gold print, the words Dominique le Phantome. "I think it's about time you started to create your own masterpieces," Erik told her.
Dominique looked up at him, a wide smile on her face. She hugged him tightly, kissing his unmasked cheek. "Thank you, Papa. It's perfect."
Erik held her tightly. Christine watched them both, a smile on her lips. Charles tugged at her hand and she picked him up. "Yes darling?"
"Do I get a present?"
"It's not your birthday!" Christine laughed. But Erik lifted an eyebrow and reached into his bag, pulling out a smaller box. Charles seized it greedily and tore it open. Christine screamed and jumped up. Dominique and Andrew leaned forward in morbid fascination. "Erik, what is that?" Christine demanded.
"Scorpion!" Charles grinned. Erik arched his eyebrow again.
"It's not real. Clockwork. Charlie, wind up the key on the side." Charles set the lifelike toy on the table and rotated the key. The scorpion scuttled forward and Christine fell back.
"Erik, what on earth possessed you to buy it?"
"I didn't buy it. I made it," Erik told her. She glared at him.
"Well, that's much better, isn't it?"
"It's only a toy, Mama," Dominique pointed out. Christine looked at Charles.
"Put it away for now."
Reluctantly, Charles pushed the scorpion back into the box. Marie looked at Erik. "So that is what you were doing in your spare time?"
"Only when I grew so frustrated with those fools at the Opera House that I needed to relax," Erik said pointedly.
Meg smiled at Christine, "He shouted enough to bring the chandelier down! Not literally of course, but I'm quite sure it was shaking!"
"Don't be so dramatic, Meg," Erik said irritably. Christine laughed.
"And how is dear Carlotta?"
"Furious about being cast in a side role," Marie commented, "She has more tantrums now than she had as the lead!"
"I will not permit her to destroy my work," Erik insisted.
Some time later, as evening drew close, Rosa started to move their tea things indoors. As everyone prepared to go inside, Andrew caught Dominique's hand.
"Walk with me?" he whispered. She nodded and they started a circuit of the lawn. Christine paused by the doors to watch them. Erik joined her.
"What are you looking at?" he asked her and she smiled at him. Erik looked around and saw the pair. They had stopped, on the opposite side of the lawn, by the tree Dominique had been sitting in that morning. Andrew was facing Dominique, talking rapidly.
"What…?" Erik began and Christine sighed.
"Erik, my darling, isn't it obvious?"
He looked down at her and smiled. "You mean…?"
"Yes." His arms snaked around her waist and he held her tightly. Christine sighed and whispered, "I love you."
"I know. I didn't… being back at the Opera House reminded me of everything I never thought I would have, but do. You and Dominique and Charlie... I'm always afraid that one day you'll disappear." He pulled her a little tighter and she hugged him.
"Even after sixteen years? Or more, if we include the years when we were at the Opera Populaire."
"Even after this long."
"Well, Erik, I'm sorry to disappoint you but I'm afraid you're going to be stuck with us for a very long time. Maybe even forever."
"Forever would be perfect," Erik murmured. And then he smiled.
Christine looked at him suspiciously. "What?"
He nodded towards Andrew and Dominique. Christine turned and a smile filled her face. Even as she watched, Andrew took Dominique's left hand and placed something on it. The next second, Dominique had laughed happily and thrown her arms around Andrew's neck and he was swinging her around, laughing as well.
Christine glanced up at Erik. He looked down at her with a slight smile and Christine kissed him softly. "Erik?"
"Say you love me," she whispered, tracing the outline of the mask.
Erik pulled his head back slightly, looking down at her. A tiny smile touched his lips. "You know I do." He kissed her and then asked, "Did you open the gift I brought you?"
Christine cast her mind back and then said, "No. It's on the table." She moved across to it and opened it, Erik watching closely. Taking the lid from the box, Christine smiled. "Erik…"
"You like it?"
"Of course I do," Christine said, taking the necklace from the box and admiring it.
Erik placed it around her neck and said quietly, "May I ask something of you?"
"Of course you can."
"Sing for me."
Christine smiled and looked over at the young couple beneath the tree. She took Erik's hand and pulled him inside to the music room.
"Let's give them little privacy."
"I'm not sure that I want them to be alone," Erik said hesitantly but Christine pushed his arm gently.
"Don't be ridiculous! Don't you remember what it was like when we first fell in love? Let them enjoy it."
He didn't look very happy but followed her to the music room. The others were in the sitting room and both Erik and Christine knew that they would have to join them shortly. But at that particular moment in time they only wanted each other. As Erik began to play, Christine sat on the stool beside him and took the mask off, laying it on the lid of the piano. Erik turned his gaze to her and she smiled. "You promised."
"What did I promise?" Erik asked quietly.
"When you asked me to marry you for the first time, I said 'never let me go, that's all I ask of you.' I'm afraid that means you've got to stay, even if we do drive you to insanity," she reminded him.
Erik looked at her, a slight smile on his face. "I believe I shall manage." Christine smiled, resting her head on his shoulder as he began to play again. Dominique would be married, Charles would grow up, they would live in their house and play music. Christine smiled at the prospect.
It was all they had ever wanted.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed this epilogue! I was a little uncertain of how to end it, but I think it came out OK. I wanted to focus a lot more on Dominique, so it pretty much circles around her.
First come the thank you's. And there are a lot of them. For the reviewers, because you are incredible! Just the fact that you even took the time to read and this and stuck around to tell me what you thought means so much!
And, of course, enormous thanks to La Foamy for her wonderful beta-ing skills. I've never had a beta before, and it was a wonderful experience! Thank you so much, Foamy. You're the best!
Next, I have a little bit of boasting to do. Hee hee. This story has been nominated, along with Cold, Cold Heart for POTO Reader's Choice Phanphiction Awards in the category of Alternate Universe. My other POTO story, A Defensive Situation has also been nominated in the Comedy/Parody category. All my thanks go to whoever nominated me! Don't know who it was, so if anyone can tell me, please do so I can personally thank them. Voting hasn't started yet but for more information go here:
www. freewebs. com/ phanphicawards/
Take the spaces out, or it won't work. I can't believe I was even nominated! Especially since I've only started writing Phanfics a couple of months ago. I'm so honoured! And so it ends – that story I wrote when I was too bored to do anything else and never had any intention of posting. Thank you all for your support, you're all incredible and I love you so much. Erik shaped cookies for all! starts to hand out cookies
And I'm not just in a good mood because it was so well received. But because I GOT THE MOVIE TODAY! I was so happy! I can't wait to watch it. But decided I wanted to get this up first. That's how much I love you, that I'm sacrificing two and a half hours of Gerry Butler, just to give you this last part!I'm going to go now, because this A/N is turning out to be longer than the actual chapter.
Once more – thank you and farewell.
Lots of love